Photo (cc) by Helga's Lobster Stew
I don’t know about you, but losing weight and saving money have long been twin goals of mine.
While I’m still a work in progress, I’ve discovered a few tricks to help me eat less without dieting. As a bonus, eating less food equals spending less money at the grocery store. It’s a win-win for my wallet and waistline!
Give it a try yourself and see if you can eat your way to lower grocery bills.
1. Begin with breakfast
Eat your breakfast! How many times could we possibly hear this advice, right?
Well, you keep hearing it because it can be good advice if you want to be healthy, lose weight and save money – both on your groceries and medical bills.
A 2013 study published in the journal Obesity found that individuals who ate their biggest meal in the morning lost significantly more weight than others who ate the same number of calories but consumed their largest meal later in the day. Even more importantly, the big-breakfast eaters reported less hunger and had improved blood work that could indicate a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, among other things.
Now, to be fair, plenty of other scientific research points to breakfast not being that big of a deal. However, my personal experience has been that eating a well-rounded breakfast seems to naturally lead to smaller lunches and dinners.
This may be a case of “your mileage may vary,” but give a big breakfast a try and see if it leads you to eat less at home and buy less at the grocery store.
2. Load up on protein
Of course, not just any breakfast will do. If I eat a donut with coffee at 8 a.m., I’m guaranteed to be famished by 9 a.m. But if I have a couple of eggs and maybe some cheese, I won’t be hungry until well into the afternoon.
My egg experience is not unique. A small study presented in 2012 found that people who ate eggs for breakfast stayed full longer and ate less for lunch.
If eggs aren’t your thing, a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition seems to indicate that any protein will do.
3. Use smaller plates
You can also use visual cues to trick yourself into eating less.
A Cornell study found that we tend to misjudge our serving sizes when we use large plates. The implication is that an average size serving on an enormous plate can make us feel deprived, while a smaller plate with the same size serving may leave us feeling satisfied.
To reduce the amount of food you eat – and buy – try shopping for smaller plates and bowls when it comes time to replace the dishware.
4. Take small bites
Along with the smaller plates, try taking smaller bites.
In 2012, researchers at Arizona State University found that taking smaller bites of food appears to be more satisfying to both rats and college students. It follows that the same would probably hold true for the rest of us.
In fact, college students given a cut-up bagel 20 minutes prior to lunch ate less than those who were given the same amount of bagel but as a single, uncut piece. That means those of us hoping to save calories and money might do well to cut up our food prior to eating it.
The small bites phenomenon was further supported by a 2013 study from researchers in the Netherlands. That report discovered that individuals instructed to drink soup using pre-portioned small sips ate 30 percent less than those taking large sips or allowed to use whatever sized sips they’d like.
5. Start with a soup
Speaking of soup, another way to reduce how much you eat is to start with soup.
This trick comes courtesy of a 2007 Penn State study. Researchers discovered that individuals who ate a soup appetizer before their lunch entrée consumed 20 percent fewer calories total than those who ate only an entrée.
For your waistline’s sake, if you try this tactic, choose a low-calorie broth-based soup for that first course.
6. Eat at the table
Finally, if you have kids eating you out of house and home, you may be able to save your wallet by making them eat at the table.
This strategy comes from a University of Illinois study that found young children are more likely to recognize when they’re full if they sit at a table and eat. The key here is their food can’t be pre-plated; it has to be served family style so children learn to portion out their own helpings.
The research found that family-style meals appear to help kids know how much is enough and how to recognize when they’re full. Pre-plated meals didn’t work because kids felt compelled to eat all the food dished out by someone else.
However, as an adult, I find forcing myself to eat at the table helps me eat less for an entirely different reason: It’s inconvenient. Noshing on chips or cookies is easy when I’m sitting in front of the TV or computer screen. When I force myself to sit at the table, it makes me give a little more thought to my food choices. Often, I find myself skipping the snack.
Those are a few strategies to help you eat less and, in turn, spend less at the grocery store. Have you tried any of these or do you have other tried and true techniques? Share them with other MTN readers by leaving a comment below or posting to our Facebook page.